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on 13 January 2018
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 3 November 2007
Galactic North is a selection of short stories set in Reynolds' "Revelation Space" universe and as such adds welcome detail to the previous novels. The stories range from the (in Reynolds terms) near future with the early days of the Conjoiners, one of the competing streams of humanity which feature in the later novels, through stories which are contemparies of the novels, to the far distant (seriously far distant) future.

One of the particularly pleasing things about this collection is that the stories are not completely independent of each other. There are common themes, threads and characters between several of them.

The stand out stories are "Great Wall of Mars" about the early days of the Conjoiners, "Weather" which adds interesting technical detail, and "Grafenwalder's Bestiary" which seems to be set at the same time as Revelation Space. The weakest story in the collection is the titular Galactic North which is massively ambitious but over reaches itself.

My complaint about the collection is simply that I don't think the short story is the right medium for Reynolds. The joys of his novels are their breadth and wealth of detail. The short story simply doesn't give him a broad enough canvas.

So recommended, but if you haven't read any Reynolds before, start with the novels.
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Alastair Reynolds' previous novels and novellas in his signature Revelation Space universe have been almost unanimously excellent works, but at times the reader (or this one, at any rate) can feel that there's a lot going on that they're not in the loop on. Characters appear whose significance is initially unclear and their backstories remain resolutely unexplained, although frequently alluded to, whilst the ending to Absolution Gap was rather abrupt, to say the least. Galactic North, a collection of eight short stories set in the universe, finally fills in the blanks and finally allows the reader to fully appreciate the breadth of this author's imagination.

Things kick off with Great Wall of Mars. Two centuries from now, the cybernetically-altered Conjoiners have sealed themselves off inside a fortified region of Mars. The forces of humanity opposed to the Conjoiners, the Coalition, is planning a final all-out assault but have agreed to a last-ditch peace mission undertaken by Nevil Clavain and a Demarchist mediator, Sandra Voi. Needless to say, things go awry. Those familiar with the previous novels will have a big grin on their face as we meet characters such as Clavain, Galiana and Felka for the first time, and find out how they met and how they get out of the jam they find themselves in here.

Glacial picks up the story some decades later, as the Conjoiner refugees find themselves wandering from star to star at sub-lightspeeds searching for a new home. On an ice world they find a human habitation, one of the few successfully established by the USA's seedship programme, and evidence of a crime that took place many years earlier which Clavain dedicates himself to solving. Reynolds' skills at detective fiction (previously employed in Century Rain and Chasm City) are on full display here and the story is very well-told.

A Spy in Europa is a neat story of sabotage, revenge and severe hubris. It sets up one of the later stories in the collection and provides some background on the Demarchists, another of the major factions of the Revelation Space universe. The ending is absolutely stellar.

Weather is an absolute barnstormer of a story. Reynolds take on the difficulties of space combat carried out between ships maneuvering at hundreds of thousands of miles per second has always been superb, but gets its best demonstration in this story. We also get one of the biggest mysteries in the Revelation Space universe revealed in this story in a startling manner, but it's the somewhat tender relationship between the narrator and his Conjoiner charge which gives the story its heart.

Dialation Sleep is the oldest story in the collection and the style isn't quite as polished as Reynolds' later work, but it's still an intriguing story about love and the loss caused by years spent in interstellar travel.

Grafenwalder's Bestiary is a thoroughly twisted story that serves as a semi-sequel to both the novella Diamond Dogs (published seperately by Gollancz with Turqoise Days) and to the earlier story A Spy in Europa. It's an excellent story about a collector in search of the perfect creatures to put on display, but there are echoes of other authors and stories here, in particular George RR Martin's Haviland Tuf stories and his famous novella Sandkings, but the ending is brilliant, if horribly inevitable.

I thoroughly recommend not eating anything before reading Nightingale, a thoroughly sick and twisted story of genetic manipulation. The ending is horrendous, but there is no denying the macabre brilliance of the tale.

Galactic North gives the collection its name and the entire Revelation Space universe its spine. We start off in 2303 AD with a frantic attempt to repair a stricken starship before the story carries us forwards through centuries and then millennia as the war against the Inhibitors, the Melding Plague, the Pattern Jugglers and every other major event of the previous novels and stories plays out as the backdrop to a story of absolute obsession and we finally discover the nature of the new threat that emerged at the end of Absolution Gap. A spectacular story that rounds off the collection in style.

Galactic North (****½) is a superb collection of stories from one of our very best SF writers, and is thoroughly recommended to newcomers to Reynolds' work and veterens of his previous tales alike. It is published by Gollancz in the UK and will by released on 27 May by Ace Books in the USA.
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on 29 December 2006
Great short stories written with Reynold's usual style.

For fans of his earlier work, returning to some of the characters and the RS setting was great - I smiled when I saw Clavain's name and enjoyed the additional information about the origins of the conjoiners.

While some of the stories are clearly targeted at RS fans, there is enough in here to keep readers who are new to Reynolds happy and hopefully tempt them to buy his earlier books. Which they should. Immediately.
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on 11 October 2011
A pretty good collection of short stories and novellas taking place in Revelation Space, which includes Chasm City, Yellowstone, the Glitter Band (and Rust Belt), the Melding Plague, the Inhibitors (only mentioned), and all the factions of humans in the future history. Altogether it's a satisfying inclusion to the Revelation Space series. However, I think his stories in Zima Blue were of better quality overall. The eight stories include:

Great Wall of Mars - 4/5: Taking place in Revelation Space when humankind was still inside its' own solar system. The Conjoiners have a Mars base and who are at differences with the Demarchists. Explore the budding relationship between the two human sects and even the relationship between the to-be-famous Conjoiner Galiana and Demarchist Nevil Clavain. Its antiquity is an interest. 51 pages

Glacial - 3/5: In the immediate post-Great Wall of Mars time, Galiana and Clavain descend upon a mysterious frigid planet which already has an American scientific base. The question as to how they got there and why they got there is not satisfyingly answered. But how the one survivor lived while the rest of the crew died proved to be mediocre. 51 pages

A Spy in Europa - 5/5: After the moon of Europa is colonized with underwater cities, word of a Demarchist hyperdiamond shard sparks a back-stabbing spy mission which may put power into the hands of the Gilgamesh Isis. Extreme surgery, rumors of shark/human hybrids and bloodshed follows. 23 pages

Weather - 5/5: In the Yellowstone colonization era, an Ultra reefersleeper craft is pursued by a pirate ship which is left ruined. In the wreck, the Ultra crew plunder the pirate ship and discover a out-of-place Conjoiner woman, who is despised by the Ultra captain. Can the solo Conjoiner survive, appease relations and even serve the ship? 57 page

Dilation Sleeper - 4/5: Takes place during the post-Melding Plague era. A reefersleeper in deep space is woken early to perform surgery on fellow sleeper with the Melding Plague. Reconstruct on his former wife on Yellowstone guides him through his awaking. 16 pages

Grafenwalder's Bestiary - 4/5: A Xenozoological collector in Rust Belt above Yellowstone competes for fame with a new unknown collector after both receiving a rare specimen from Sky's Edge. Each successive oddity must be outdone to draw prestige. 48 pages

Nightingale - 4/5: Three veterans from Sky's Edge's Southland Militia and Northern Coalition are gathered to capture a Colonel Jax, rumored via the Ultras to be hidden away in a wartime hospital ghost ship. With his capture they hope to crucify him, but even finding him in the floating derelict seems hopeless. It's a tad predictable, but maintains nice theme of space horror. 73 pages

Galactic North- 3/5: A multi-millennial plot where a reefersleeper ramliner is boarded by pirates who steal 200 sleepers. The ramliner captain seeks here long revenge and retrieval of the sleepers across the galactic north plane. I reread the story but I still don't know what a greenfly is and how it did what it did. 41 pages
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on 20 March 2008
The short story format isn't where Alastair Reynolds can be seen at his best. The stories in the Galactic North collection all feel like minor episodes in his Revelation Space universe, lacking the complexity and scope of his novels. Only the title story Galactic North attempts to cover the epic scope of eons, myth and history, but it suffers from compression into the short story format. Moreover, since there is a necessity for them to be read standalone, most of the stories tend to fall back on recognisable plotlines with sci-fi horror twists and shock endings that show their influences much more obviously than the authors extended works. (An interesting postscript by the author is quite open and forthcoming about this).

On the positive side, the stories are all very readable, showing the variation that Reynolds is capable of, and his strengths with characterisation and exciting, dynamic plots. Anyone familiar with Reynolds' work will recognise many of those characters and situations from several of his novels and very quickly work out where the stories are going, but the return visits or expansion into Revelation Space history are welcome nonetheless. Most importantly however, without the exploration of the ideas developed here we wouldn't have the magnificent richness of the universe that is depicted in the Revelation Space novels.
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on 10 June 2011
Alastair Reynolds presents eight stories from his Revelation Space universe. They are a good introduction to this universe and some of its defining early history. Readers encounter his various techno-socio-political factions--Conjoiners, Demarchists, Ultras, and such--and enough background to jump less painfully into his longer novels.

My two favorites:

"Glacial" stands alone as a classic science fiction mystery. We look over Nevil Clavain's shoulder as he puzzles out the reason everyone on a remote, ice-covered planet suddenly died. As a fan of other Nevil Clavain stories, I have conflicting feelings about encountering Nevil, Galiana and Felka as an odd, but close-knit little family.

"Nightingale" smuggles us along as a carefully-picked assault team works to bring a war criminal to justice. Any mission the whole team can walk away from is a success, is it not?

This book is recommended to science fiction fans, particularly those who enjoy hard science fiction and complex space opera. It is required reading for Alistair Reynolds fans.
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on 2 January 2007
If you feel the Alastair Reynolds revelation space series was a fantastic read, you have to buy this book. Not all the stories are in that setting, but the few that are makes the book worth owning all by them selves. The rest is just a bonus.

You will get to know the conjoiners in a much more intimate way. Reynolds is a genious. You will find a story that picks up where the inhibiters left off, what happens to humankind and intelligent life in a world of inhibiters and the runaway greenfly. How did the greenfly come to be? Wonderful imagination. You will love it. The other stories are also good/ok, but they are not why i bought it and not why i gave the book 5 stars.

To Mr. Reynolds: What are you doing reading this? Get back to writing!
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on 29 November 2006
Alastair Reynold's future history is as complex, and fascinating, as any I've ever come across.

Revelation Space et. al. are some of THE best hard science fiction I've ever read - and, it has to be said, the stories and novellas in this collection come up to snuff.

With tantalizing details about the universe they're set in, and an incredibly broad scope (where will YOU be in AD Circa 40,000?), this is a must-have for fans of his work. "Great Wall of Mars" and "Galactic North" are the highlights ... the rest, well, are pretty damned good ...

It isn't often that I find a reason to praise modern science fiction - Reynolds gives me one. Great stuff.
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on 14 November 2006
Galactic North is a collection of 8 short stories set in Reynolds' Revelation Space universe. Not at all superfluous, these stories feed into the vast universe previously explored in his Inhibitor series and enrich the experience, exploring all the exotic branches of our future space-bound race, never failing to comment on humanity despite the most alien of situations. Of particular note is the titular tale, a mind boggling future history which tells of events millennia after Absolution Gap. As usual, Reynolds' mix of hard SF and intriguingly flawed characters makes an engrossing and fascinating read.
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